It was the first time I've driven myself to work in over a month, commuting as I have been with the Wizard. Traveling together in his car has given me opportunity to gawk around and use mobile devices with impunity. A passive partner in the passenger seat, I've been listening to HIS Teaching Company lectures, so far learning rather dreary biographical information about Mozart, Mahler, Shostakovich, and Churchill. We have an informal agreement that the driver gets to choose the audio. (I'd rather listen to Mahler than hear about his personal misery, to say nothing of Shostakovich.)
But yesterday, because the Wizard is on the mainland, I had the opportunity to resume my own Teaching Company lessons in my own hot little car (his big car has air-con)--literally, The Meaning of Life, Perspectives from the World's Great Intellectual Traditions.* I had left off the lectures before leaving for China in May, and then there was another sound system glitch that needed attention. It took some recollection, but I'd stopped just after Zen, and just before Hume--Lecture 22, Taking Stock of the Classical World. Since yesterday morning, I have quickly progressed from Hume to Kant to Mill to Nietzsche, with a little side trip into Tolstoy.
Who knew that The Death of Ivan Ilych could be interpreted as a Taoist fable? All through this journey into modernity and beyond, I was struck by ancient Taoist themes, usually just before the lecturer said, "Now this may remind you of the Taoists... ." Eastern thought is discussed far more --14 out of 36 TC lectures** --in this course than in any of the survey courses like this I took in college. In fact, I don't think Eastern thought was EVER included in my classic liberal arts humanities curriculum. Well, maybe once in a comparative religion class. In any case, I never would have expected to be listening to a lecture on "Nietzsche--Achieving Authenticity" some 40 years later in a traffic jam in Hawaii. Some eight o'clock class!
And now I'm looking forward to the drive home: moving on to Gandhi, Lame Deer, and the Dalai Lama, before the concluding lecture, "So, What Is the Meaning of Life?"
I just can't wait to find out. But it's a question I'll likely be asking until I die.
*The Wizard and I are both fans of The Teaching Company. I should point out that the prices cited on the the site are never what we pay; I can't imagine that anyone would...the ongoing "sales" are far more reasonable, and we expect to donate our collected curriculum to the university we both work at or pass them on to persons in need of education.
**And counting two lectures on Lame Deer, the Lakota Sioux medicine man, I think it adds up to a pretty nice balance of East and West, indigenous and European thinkers.